Father's and Mother's Work Hours and Children's Social and Emotional Wellbeing

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Jianghong LI, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Germany, Telethon KIDS Institute, The University of Western Australia, Australia, Centre for Population Health Research, Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University, Australia
Plamen AKALIYSKI, University of Norway, Norway
Lyndall STRAZDINS, Australian National University, Australia
We are witnessing an important transition from post-industrial economies to service economies, so called the "24/7 economy." One of the consequences of this new economy is a high proportion of workers including parents who work very long hours. Around 19.0% of Australian fathers worked (> 55 hours weekly) when their children aged 5 and 20% did so when their children aged 8. In Germany 15% fathers of children with similar age (3-4) work > 55 hours weekly. This study examines the impact of fathers’ and mothers’ long work hours on the social and emotional wellbeing (mental health) of children and adolescents, using longitudinal data from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study and fixed-effect models. The findings show a curvilinear relationship between parents’ work hours and children’s social and emotional wellbeing, and this relationship differs by child and parent gender. Optimal work hours (35-40 hours for mothers and 40-44 weekly for fathers) are beneficial for children’s mental health, but not working or working less than optimal hours or working long hours (41 or more weekly for mothers and 45 and more for fathers) were associated with an increase in social and emotional problems in children. Mother’s work hours primarily impact on girls’ and fathers’ work hours mainly influence boys’ mental health. Together these findings are consistent with both work-family conflict and work-family enrichment theories, and they lend a strong support to social policies that aim to enable mothers to increase their participation in the labour market on the one hand, and on the other to enable fathers to take a greater share of child care and child rearing responsibilities in the home.  Future research is needed to examine mechanisms which underpin the link between parents’ work hours and children’s social and emotional health.